NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Seattle City Council votes to oppose I-976 as Tim Eyman serves up his usual insults

With a little less than a month to go until General Election Day 2019, the Seattle City Council took a decisive stand against Eyman’s I-976 Monday by passing a resolution denouncing the measure and its devastating consequences.

The vote was 7-0 in favor of adoption. Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lorena González were not present in person at the meeting.

The resolution reads:

A RESOLUTION opposing Washington Initiative Measure 976 (“I-976”) and urging Seattle voters to vote “No” on I-976 on the November 5, 2019, general election ballot.

WHEREAS Washington Initiative Measure 976 (hereinafter, “I-976”) would undermine progress made by The City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the State of Washington in building a more equitable and sustainable transportation system that responds to the challenges posed by the region’s extraordinary growth, an ongoing climate crisis, and past failures to build a mass transit system that could efficiently and cost effectively serve the needs of Seattle in the twenty-first century, by eliminating major funding sources for light rail expansion, bus service in Seattle, and the primary sources of non-highway spending at the state level; and

WHEREAS I-976 would repeal funding authority for all or substantial portions of transportation benefit districts in Seattle and 61 other cities across Washington State, a sum of $60 million per year that is largely dedicated to improving safety and maintaining infrastructure and, as in Seattle, to reducing crowding and expanding access to bus service; and

WHEREAS I-976 is intended to eliminate $24 million per year in Seattle Transportation Benefit District funding primarily dedicated to additional bus service for Seattle riders that helps alleviate overcrowding; adds more speed and reliability; and provides more all-day, evening, and weekend bus service accessible to more Seattle neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS Seattle Transit Benefit District-funded expansion of bus service has allowed Seattle to absorb much of its growth via transit rather than additional cars, providing 350,000 new annual service hours -the equivalent of 8,000 weekly bus trips or 79 buses running 12 hours per day 365 days a year – capacity for 106,032 additional bus rides per day on bus routes serving Seattle, providing ten-minute or better all-day bus service within a ten-minute walk to 70 percent of Seattle households (up from 25 percent in 2015); and

WHEREAS I-976 would also eliminate or reduce funding now dedicated to low-income transit access and ORCA passes to all Seattle public high school students, Seattle Promise Scholars, and income-eligible middle school students; and

WHEREAS I-976 would also eliminate nearly $8 million per year in funding dedicated to City transportation programs that include pothole repair and neighborhood street maintenance, protected bike lanes, safer pedestrian crossings, frequent transit corridor improvements, and the Seattle Department of Transportation’s program to improve accessibility for people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS I-976 is intended to eliminate $20 billion in funding for expansion of light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, along with other elements of the 2016 voter-approved Sound Transit 3 measure; and

WHEREAS I-976 would eliminate the primary sources of state funding for safety improvements and nonhighway modes of transportation, including passenger rail service connecting Seattle with Portland and Vancouver; $1.3 billion in ferry vessel improvements; $15 million per year in Washington State Patrol safety programs; $50 million per year in regional transit mobility grants; a multitude of freight mobility and highway safety projects; state funding for Safe Routes to Schools and other bike and pedestrian safety investments; and state funding for special needs transit that serves seniors, veterans, and people
with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, passage of I-976, even if it might eventually be repealed by the courts, could tie up funding for local bus service, light rail expansion, and state programs for several years, grinding to a halt progress on addressing Washington’s growth, safety, equity, climate, and traffic needs, delaying projects and potentially creating financial turmoil for Sound Transit with bond markets; and

WHEREAS, Puget Sound residents have voted to tax themselves to address their own transportation needs by building light rail for traffic relief, improving safety and maintenance of the existing right-of-way, and expanding bus access; and

WHEREAS, after notice in accordance with RCW 42.17A.555 and Seattle Municipal Code Section 2.04.300, persons in favor of I-976 and those opposed to it have been given an equal opportunity to share their views in an open public meeting;


Section 1. The Mayor and Seattle City Council urge Seattle voters to vote “No” on Washington Initiative Measure 976 in the November 2019 general election.

Prior to passing the resolution, each councilmember offered a few comments in support. Councilmember Debora Juarez remarked that, in addition to the arguments stated in the WHEREAS clauses, “statewide transportation improvements have been hard-fought and are the result of great and partisan work in the State and here in our tri-county region: Pierce, King, and Snohomish.”

I-976 would “reverse the will of the people” for better transit and badly needed alternatives to gridlocked highways like Interstate 5.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold noted that Seattle has been one of the few cities in the nation where transit use has been on the upswing recently, spurned by Sound Transit and King County Metro service expansion and improvement.

Yet, under I-976, Seattle will lose approximately 175,000 hours of bus service in 2020. That’s half of the service funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. One-third of water taxi service is funded through the transportation benefit district, so that will be in jeopardy too.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant argued that “it would make existing measures more regressive.” She called for the passage of a high-earners income tax at the city level to fund Seattle’s public services more equitably.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw thanked the Legislature for passing transportation funding bills that have raised money for needed projects. Specifically, she mentioned working with State Senator Curtis King of Eastern Washington to secure progress for communities on both sides of the Cascades.

Councilmember Abel Pacheco emphasized the need for transportation funding to comply with Vision 2050. He also humorously called I-976 “malarkey”.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda noted that that the public services we rely on to make sure our economy functions have to be funded somehow. Businesses can’t get their goods to market and people can’t get where they need to go if our transportation system is in disrepair.

Then the fun part came: Tim Eyman spoke in defense of Initiative 976, rambling in front of City Council for several minutes while lambasting councilmembers for having the audacity to offer people guidance on how to vote. Many activists held up NO on I-976 signs behind Tim as he spoke, creating a theatrical atmosphere.

Tim Eyman surrounded by NO on I-976 signs

Tim Eyman speaks as opponents of Initiative 976 hold up signs opposing his scheme to wipe out billions in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments (Seattle Channel)

Matthew Lang of the Transit Riders Union — who testified in opposition to I-976 alongside our founder earlier this winter — delivered a rejoinder for the NO camp.

He re-emphasized the thousands of good paying, family wage jobs in the building trades could be lost with the delay or cancellation of essential projects.

He also stressed the bus service in rural counties that could be completely gutted.

And he pointed out that vehicle fees help ensure that Seattle, King County, and other jurisdictions can offer low fare programs like ORCA LIFT to people on low or limited incomes. People with disabilities, high school students, and the elderly would all be affected by the discontinuation of ORCA LIFT.

Access to transportation is one of the biggest markers of privilege in this country, Lang told the council. If you don’t have transportation, you can’t get to work or around the city. He’s absolutely correct. All Washingtonians deserve freedom of mobility. That’s why NPI is working hard to defeat this destructive measure.

Join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-976 by November 5th, 2019.

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